When Josh Capon heads to Chicago, he knows what to expect — meat, and lots of it. So what does a chef go for when he’s at a White Sox game at Cellular Field? "Italian beef sandwiches, Polish sausages, bratwurst — you get the idea," Capon says with a laugh.
Capon is back at it, another baseball game on a rare day off. "We’re really going to eat our way through the stadium," he says as we drive up. Walking through the stadium, you can smell the grilled meat every which way you turn.
And then it’s time for another meat Chicago is known for: hot dogs. It’s also a dish with roots to Chicago’s early immigrant population, but this time it comes from the Germans. The Germans of Chicago brought with them their frankfurter, a blend of pork and beef, mixed with Vienna spices. And Capon orders them all at Cellular Field: one Vienna beef with the classic "salad on top" — relish, chopped onions, spicy peppers — some bratwurst and Polish sausages, and one bacon cheddar pretzel dog from All-Star Stands. "That’s a fun twist on a ballpark staple," he says.
To balance out the meat sweats, we grab the "Tater Tachos," tater tots covered in nacho cheese and jalepeños. We soon learn that cheese sweats are also a thing.
Italian beef sandwiches are also iconic to Chicago, maybe even more than deep-dish pizza (a travesty to New Yorkers like Capon). Its origins travel back to the Great Depression, when Italian immigrant families would stretch their meat by slicing it thinly, slow-roasting it with spices, and layering it on thick loaves of Italian bread. It was known then as a wedding concession — cheaper sandwiches to feed large gatherings — but now it’s an every day, every occasion snack. Especially when you’re at a ballgame.
So naturally, Capon had to get his hands on the many varieties of beef sandwiches sold at Cellular Field. One beef sandwich from Burger Barns came with a twist: thinly sliced ribeye steak slathered with Merkt’s cheese, stacked on a hoagie and topped with "Chi-Town Pico." "I was a little unsure about this one with the pico de gallo, but now, this might be the best thing I’ve eaten all day," he says.
"I feel like I could close my eyes, take a bite of this hot dog or this sandwich, and know I’m in Chicago," Capon says between bites. "It’s great to see that the stadium is keeping with the city and the foods Chicago’s known for."
But we can’t not grab some pizza at the stadium too — not of the deep-dish variety, but ones that still pack plenty of Chicago personality. Before we can stop ourselves, we’ve dived straight into an Italian beef sandwich-pizza hybrid from Beggars Pizza Pub, with the same giardiniera salad and steak on top. We’re almost gleeful at this kind of combo — only in Chi-Town.
We finish the day off with a deep-dish chocolate chip cookie. Even after all the meat, tater tots, and cookie swirling in our stomachs, though, the churros still tempted Capon after our food tour was done. "Maybe another time," he says with a laugh.